A short while ago, Georgia Tech announced that a 14 year long site hosting course wikis was being closed over FERPA concerns (this post on the story has a good quick overview of the law). The site had been around longer than Wikipedia. That’s what I call educational innovation!

A GT professor notes all of the great learning activities the wikis enabled, and ties it squarely to the idea of constructionism. As a space where knowledge is collectively built and refined, wikis are a natural fit for this teaching style. It’s an approach that I’m personally invested in supporting (I’m helping to build a tool here at UW to do it).

The point that interests me most is the tie between law and constructionism. While some might say that the shutdown happened because “it’s the law,” I would argue that this is oversimplifying complicated legislation. In fact, I would argue that unclear cases like this are really one institution’s interpretation of the law.

What’s the connection to constructionism? While the legal system is designed to work out ambiguity, it can’t scale to answer every single question under its domain. Its cases like this were we collectively determine the boundaries of the law based on our decisions. GT has made its choice in how to construct FERPA, but its far from decided law. I would argue there is space for balancing the intent of the law with what it is designed to protect — learners (who need to do their learning in a variety of ways).

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